Program aims to improve lead safety in Vt. rental homes

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) "There is no safe level of lead in the body," said Tracey Dolan of the Vermont Department of Health.

Health officials say 600 kids had lead poisoning in Vermont last year. The lead came from older homes in need of new attention.

"This is preventable, so we are calling on all landlords. As I said, we're hitting the reset button-- care about the past, this is about the future, work with us. Let's get this right, we'll work with you," said T.J. Donovan, D-Vt. Attorney General.

Donovan says the state's new restoration program will help keep kids safer, especially in cities like Burlington where there are a lot of older rental homes built before 1978. This program wipes the slate clean for landlords who have fallen behind on compliance and gives them 90 days to bring their properties up to code. It also offers financial help to do it.

Bill Bissonette owns property in Burlington and brought his grandson William along to help stress how important it is.

"I think the key is we're a room full of adults and William's population is the one that's the most risk," Bissonette said.

This property owner says this program is will be vital to get lead-free housing, but it's up to the property owner to follow the law.

"I think it's important that what the attorney general is providing to rental owners is important that we utilize it to the best of our ability," Bissonette said.

The attorney general's office said they will be having community meetings in the five communities that have elevated blood lead levels in children. Burlington is not one of them but Rutland, Barre, Bennington, Brattleboro and Windsor are on the list.